By David Bauer, senior vice president of government relations, ARTBA
Thanks to an $8 billion infusion of new resources from the three-month highway/transit program extension Congress passed in July and substantial increases in driving levels, the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) now anticipates the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) can support current levels of spending until the summer of 2016.
Prior to the $8 billion transfer on July 31, the department had said a trust fund revenue shortfall would require it to begin slowing down reimbursements to states for already underway federal-aid highway and bridge improvements. The Congressional Budget Office had forecast the fund would not be able to support any new highway and transit spending when FY 2016 begins on Oct. 1.
As ARTBA’s Newsline reported Aug. 21, vehicle miles traveled in the U.S. reached an all-time high for the first six months of 2015. The increased driving translates into more fuel purchases and unexpected HTF revenues. While the latest U.S. DOT forecast may be seen by some as short-term reprieve for the HTF, the fact remains that the fund is suffering from a permanent deficit between existing revenues and current levels of spending. The $8 billion transfer in July was the sixth such action in the last eight years.
It is incumbent on all members of the transportation construction industry to not allow these new trust fund projections to be used by members of Congress to further delay action on a long-term reauthorization of the federal highway and public transportation programs.